Shreeansh Agarwal: Balancing contradictions

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guestpost / Wednesday

For those who are new to blog, on Wednesdays we have guest posts from my friend who are doing cool things around the world. This week, I have Shreeansh, a high school friend who is full of wisdom (you will see) and amazing wordplay (you will see that too). So let’s get into it.


 

My name is Shreeansh and I did my internship this summer at a research institute in Harvard Law School. Here are my three big takeaways from my summer.

Work Hard

If you’re reading blogs like this, chances are you’re a reasonably ambitious person. You have spent many a weekday evening scouting for internships where you’d rather be Netflixing. You are willing to forego the occasional weekend party prepping for midterms or doing your lifts. You walk the extra mile if you have to.

In the summers, it is easy to let go of all this determination that you have painfully cultivated through the school year. It’s just the summer, after all, and you shouldn’t have to put in the same amount of energy you put into your academic career.

But the fact is that if you consider yourself ambitious, you will recognize that summer internships are at least as important for your growth, if not more, as the school year is. It is a crucial time to build the connections, character and soft skills that you will never find in the classroom.

I gained so much from internship I had this summer, partly because I put in the extra hours. I would arrange in-person meetings in the weekends and Skype meetings after work. I often found myself exchanging emails about my project with my supervisor late into the evening (and it told me something that he was also working that late). See the internship as an opportunity for you to accomplish all that you want to, and put in the effort required to accomplish it.

Don’t work too hard

All that being said, know when and how to take it easy. It is not merely the risk of burning out that you should be wary of, but the risk of not being able to experience things outside your work.

Internships often take you to new cities, for example. Find time to acquaint yourself with the city, and build your own personal relationship with it. Learn about its history. Go to its museums, theaters and concerts. Taste the regional food and familiarize yourself with local slang.

In the two months I spent in Boston, I saw a burlesque show, attended an Indian Classical Music Concert, went to several art exhibits and thoroughly acquainted myself with the Boston subway system to the point where I can name all the red line stops in order. Reach out to friends who you know are in the city, and take them out for a drink. Reach out to people whose work interests you and ask them to meet you for coffee. I became so much closer to people from college whom I hardly spoke to, and I’ve learned so much from each one.

All this activity not just prevents you from imploding in a cloud of stress, but also makes you a more worldly, sympathetic person.

Read and Watch

The scenario of having a list of books to read and never getting round to reading them is common enough to be a cliche. But if you can muster the time, summers provide a unique environment to read what you want without running out of stamina from all the academic work you have to do (unless, of course, your internship is assisting a professor or something). Moreover, there are no stakes to this kind of reading. No papers, no grades, no one to scrutinize your words and judge your intellect. Summer reading is the purest, most joyful reading I’ve ever done. I set up a Marx reading club with my friends and we covered most of his important works, from On the Jewish Question to Das Kapital. Although I may not have ever agreed with his logic, at least I now know very thoroughly why I don’t.

Even if reading is not your thing, watch the films you have always wanted to watch. I firmly believe that cinemas the new literature. As so many of my favorite directors repeatedly show, it is a medium that can capture and relay human experiences in a way no other medium ever has. I managed to watch so many indie South Asian films, and I was awed and moved by each one.

I know that much of what I have said contradicts itself. There is only so much time and trying to fit everything in feels like trying to contain a waterfall in a coffee mug. Perhaps this is the classic millennial dilemma – tonnes of ambition and curiosity, but not an ounce of direction or purpose. But I truly think that the summer is a time when you can really embrace your milleniality. If the school year is like playing a video game in story mode, then the summers are like playing free roam instead. Go ahead, go nuts.


As you can see, Shreeansh is indeed a master with words – the last few lines about the video game particularly got me.He also noted the contentment vs. exploration dilemma we discussed earlier in the week. Thanks to Shreeansh for writing this week’s blog. I think he put into words that many of us have thought about in passing. 

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